Oh Berlin, What Have you Done to me?

by Silke Elzner

Berlin, you are evil. You are a traitor.

We had a pact. Our agreement was that I would leave you as a 25-year-old, never to return. My plan was to see the world, to escape the icy cold of your winter mornings, and to widen my horizons. This is exactly what I  did, and I kept my part of this deal. I went to Sydney, Australia and stayed there for thirteen years. Then I went to Spain, avoiding you and your cold, dark heart.

But you, you betrayed me. You lured me back with your funky street art and your tasty dishes and the wealth of things to see.

You broke my heart. As I am sitting here, writing, it is strewn all around me, shattered to a million pieces.

Berlin for a Week with Kids

I came back last month, just for a visit. All I wanted to do was to show you to my family. To take my children to the German capital, to make them understand where their parents came from. It was an innocent idea with little risk envolved.

And what did you do? You make me fall in love with you again! The second I boarded one of your yellow trains I knew I was a goner. With every step, with every new experience, a flood of warm memories came back to me, choking me with their familiarity, breaking down my barriers.

Dearest Berlin, I had no eye for the leafless winter trees, the homeless people sleeping under the bridges, the Russian tricksters in the parks. I couldn’t feel the icy cold that was sweeping through the squares, didn’t mind the sticky dirt in the subway stations.

I ate you up, one bite at a time. I overindulged on treats from my childhood and winterwarmers from the Christmas markets. I feasted on dishes from around the world, that were tantalising my senses just the way they should.

Now, Where do I Really Belong?

And now the deed is done. I am back in Spain, the place I chose for my family, and you are far, far away. Admiring you from a distance is pointless. Things will never be the same again.

Look at me. I was a fool. I didn’t know what I had in you. All day long I am collecting the pieces of my broken heart, wondering if I could ever mend it again. Berlin, look at what you’ve done! I thought I had a home, but now I am not so sure anymore.

I will make amends. I promise. I will be a good girl. I will start treating you like the rockstar that you are. But I need an answer now, will you ever take me back?

Berlin in Pictures

On our first day in Berlin, St Hedwig Cathedral near Museum Island encouraged us to test out a halo.

On our first day in Berlin, St Hedwig Cathedral near Museum Island encouraged us to test out a halo.

On top of the Reichstag, you can still make out Russian graffiti. I noticed this 13 years ago and I am happy to see that it's still there. Some things, luckily, never change.

On top of the Reichstag, you can still make out Russian graffiti. I noticed this 13 years ago and I am happy to see that it’s still there. Some things, luckily, never change.

The Holocaust Memorial was a new experience for me as it was not there when I left the city. A very impressive memorial that I was happy to explore with the children.

The Holocaust Memorial was a new experience for me as it was not there when I left the city. A very impressive memorial that I was happy to explore with the children.

The Ampelmännchen design used to be specific to East Berlin. When after reunification the lights were changed across the city, people went up in arms. Now, the design is almost everywhere and there are special souvenir shops around the city.

The Ampelmännchen design used to be specific to East Berlin. When after reunification the lights were changed across the city, people went up in arms. Now, the design is almost everywhere and there are special souvenir shops around the city.

Gute Sitte in Mitte written on a trash bin, meaning "Good manners in Mitte". Returning to Berlin, I remembered many Berlin specific words such as Schrippe, Pfannkuchen and Kiez.

Gute Sitte in Mitte written on a trash bin, meaning “Good manners in Mitte”. Returning to Berlin, I remembered many Berlin specific words such as Schrippe, Pfannkuchen, and Kiez.

My old university. I spent many days here, quite unhappily. But now I am glad to see that virtually nothing has changed. Even the second-hand book stall is still there.

My old university. I spent many days here, quite unhappily. But now I am glad to see that literally nothing has changed. Even the second-hand book stall is still there.

Glühwein is one of the things that make me survive through winter. In Germany, it's part of the culture to meet with friends around the Glühwein-Stall, after work, a shopping spree or before going out for drinks.

Glühwein is one of the things that make me survive through winter. In Germany, it’s part of the culture to meet with friends around the Glühwein stall, after work, after a Christmas shopping spree, or before going out for drinks.

Gingerbread hearts - they taste awful and even worse so when you leave them to hang for months in your room as you admire the icing sugar writing. A gift of lovers and mothers.

Gingerbread hearts – they taste awful and even worse so when you leave them to hang for months in your room as you admire the icing sugar writing. A gift of lovers and mothers.

So happy to see public art everywhere around the city, brightening neglected spaces like this construction site next to Humboldt University.

Taking the children with us was a dream come true. They fell in love with Berlin as much as I did.

Taking the children with us was a dream come true. They fell in love with Berlin as much as I did.

An ancient iron sign with opening information for the Berlin Cathedral. I just love how you can find these random ancient things from the past.

An ancient iron sign with opening information for the Berlin Cathedral. I just love how you can find these random ancient things from the past.

Naked girl statues sitting on the banks of the river Spree, part of a beautiful figure ensemble.

Naked girl statues sitting on the banks of the river Spree, part of a beautiful figure ensemble.

I just loved this piece of art which you can find in many places along the train lines, sometimes even adorned with glitter.

I just loved this piece of art which you can find in many places along the train lines, sometimes even adorned with glitter.

The kids were having a great time despite the fact that they are actually summer children who are yet to see snow in their lives.

The kids were having a great time despite the fact that they are actually summer children who are yet to see snow in their lives.

A hidden gem in Monbijou park where you can hang out around an open fire pit with a Glühwein to wait for the next children's theatre performance.

Märchenhütte: A hidden gem in Monbijou park where you can hang out around an open fire pit with a Glühwein to wait for the next children’s theatre performance.

Nothing has changed at Potsdamer Platz except for the seasonal addition of Christmas lights. Great place to catch an English-language movie with the kids.

Nothing has changed at Potsdamer Platz except for the seasonal addition of Christmas lights. Great place to catch an English language movie with the kids.

At Lego Discovery Centre we saw many places of Berlin in miniature form, some of them animated. Just like the tearing down of the Berlin wall, with David Hasselhoff delivering the soundtrack from the crane platform.

At Lego Discovery Centre we saw many places of Berlin in miniature form, some of them animated. Just like the tearing down of the Berlin wall, with David Hasselhoff delivering the soundtrack from the crane platform.

One of my most favourite free places, the Memorial Church which has some wonderful artwork on the inside despite the destroyed exterior.

One of my most favourite free places, the Memorial Church which has some wonderful artwork on the inside despite of the destroyed exterior.

Gorgeous decorations along Hackescher Markt railway station. I am big fan of the Berlin public transport system.

Gorgeous decorations along Hackescher Markt railway station. I am big fan of the rather efficient Berlin public transport system.

Berlin is not perfect. It can be pretty grubby. But this is what makes it so interesting, as people change the faces of the city with every passing minute.

Berlin is not perfect. It can be pretty grubby. But this is what makes it so interesting, as people change the face of the city with every passing minute.

Berlin is packed with speciality stores when you know where to look. Like this watchmaker in Hackesche Höfe who displays his collection of armbands.

Berlin is packed with speciality stores when you know where to look. Like this watchmaker in Hackesche Höfe who displays his collection of armbands in quite an ingenious way.

I love the idea of Stumbling Stones which reminds people of victims of the Nazi regime who used to live in these places.

I love the idea of Stumbling Stones which remind people of victims of the Nazi regime who used to live in these places.

Shopping opportunities aplenty in Berlin. Lucky for us, many shops were closed for Christmas.

Shopping opportunities aplenty in Berlin. Lucky for us, many shops were closed for Christmas.

A bird of my childhood, one of the few birds who won't migrate for the winter months.

A bird of my childhood, one of the few birds who won’t migrate for the winter months.

On our way to the Anne Frank Museum we encountered this wonderfully creative space full of graffitis, collages and artwork. A surprise find which I am sure changes every once in a while.

On our way to the Anne Frank Museum we encountered this wonderfully creative space full of graffitis, collages and artwork. A surprise find which I am sure changes every once in a while.

My most favourite attraction in Berlin: a stairway leading up to a contemporary art gallery.

My most favourite attraction in Berlin: a stairway leading up to a contemporary art gallery.

At the DDR museum, I virtually got to try a number of Eastern German clothes. I also got to feel the fabric of real GDR jeans.

At the DDR museum, I virtually got to try a number of Eastern German clothes. I also got to feel the fabric of real GDR jeans.

The Trabi was the fabled car produced in Eastern Germany. There are attempt of reviving the old design with the mechanics of a modern car. A great idea in my view.

The Trabi was the fabled car produced in Eastern Germany. There are attempts of reviving the old design with the mechanics of a modern car. A great idea in my view.

In the three years that I lived in Berlin I never got to visit the Nicolai Quarter, the oldest part of the city. Glad to have done so now.

In the three years that I lived in Berlin I never got to visit the Nicolai Quarter, the oldest part of the city. Glad to have done so now.

Bears, bears everywhere.

Bears, bears everywhere.

At Mauerpark, you get to explore a section of the former border region between the two Berlins. The way trees are overgrowing these abandoned sections of the walls is quite telling.

At Mauerpark, you get to explore a section of the former border region between the two Berlins. The way trees are overgrowing these abandoned sections of the walls is quite symbolic.